One Pot Hamburger Helper
This very creamy one pot pasta and ground meat meal is lighter than the classic version and even has greens in it for a boost of veggies. It’s quick to make and pure comfort in a bowl. The ground meat is seasoned and cooked then the pasta is added and it cooks in broth and a bit of cream and finished is off with cheese.
What is hamburger helper?
I have to be completely honest with you when I say I have never had it in my life but the concept of it is amazing. The boxed stuff I was exposed to growing up included KD (Kraft Dinner), pizza packets and Mr noodles and all of those things required a lot of puppy eyes and begging. Hamburger helper is basically like Kraft Dinner - a box of dried noodles and seasoning that you cook up with meat and add liquids to according to the package instructions. Hamburger Helper was introduced in 1971 in response to a meat shortage and escalating meat prices. Hamburger Helper allowed homemakers to stretch a single pound of hamburger into a meal for a whole family. They were onto something. One pot meals are the best for that. Feed many with one pan of food.
Why is homemade hamburger helper better?
That is an easy one. Anything homemade is always better because you can make it the way you like it and can control what goes into it. Apart from that a lot of the boxed stuff out there has stuff in it that you just don’t want or need in your meal so it just makes sense that making it from scratch is way better. Don’t get me wrong there are moments when I need a little KD in my life but generally homemade is the better way to go.
How do you make homemade hamburger helper?
You are basically building the meal with everything that the box would have. So you need pasta. You need seasoning. That is where things get fun. You can play up the seasoning to your taste. I chose the traditional route - safer route or more familiar with pantry basic seasoning but you can experiment with different spices and flavours. I heard that the boxed stuff comes in different flavours like Italian, cheesy and Mexican. Feel free to chose the seasoning according to the flavour you want your hamburger helper in. I have yet to try Mexican but I’m loving the idea already.
The liquid you add will definitely change things too. If you want a heavier creamier version feel free to go for a full cup of cream instead of just a half cup and reduce the broth accordingly. I have made it with broth alone for an even lighter version and didn’t mind it, my hubby did though so that never happened again. You can add a lot more cheese too, making it more of a mac and cheese hamburger helper or some call it a cheeseburger helper. A lot of people love to switch the tomato paste to ketchup for a little bit of sweetness and that is ok too. When it comes to the meat component there are options there too. I use lean ground beef but you can use any ground meat or even a vegan ground meat option. I find that ground beef takes really well to the seasoning - whereas the others require a bit extra seasoning to add flavour to the broth and the overall meal so keep that in mind while making it. Just check and adjust as you go along. No where in any of the boxed stuff with you find greens of any kind in hamburger helper but you know how I feel about greens - there’s always a place for them in my books. You dont have to add them but I do every time - maybe I feel that adding them negates the cream and cheese. I always use gluten free pasta and this recipe works with whatever pasta you have. I just recommend sticking to the classic and using short pasta to make this dish.
I do love a one pot meal. But with every one pot meal that has pasta in it, the longer it’s left the thicker it gets because obviously the pasta soaks up the liquid. The longer it sits the more it will absorb. If you have leftovers remember to add a bit of broth when reheating to add back some creaminess - that is if there are any leftovers. Quick, easy and better than the boxed stuff - I call that a winner of a dinner! Enjoy
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced finely
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- ¼ tsp of chili flakes (optional)
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- ½ tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1½ tbsp. tomato paste
- ¼ cup red wine(optional)
- 12 oz. elbow pasta
- 3 ½ cups beef broth
- ½ cup cream or milk (or more broth to keep the dairy free)
- 1 cups fresh or frozen kale or spinach (optional - for added greens)
- 1 cup shredded cheese
- ¼ cup freshly chopped parsley (optional)
- Heat oil in a very large skillet,over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, chili flakes, paprika and Italian seasoning and sauté for a couple of minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper and continue to Sauté, breaking up the ground beef with the back of a spoon, until the beef is cooked through, approximately 5-8 minutes.
- Add in the tomato paste and cook and stir to combine for a minute then add the wine if using to deglaze the pan.
- Add the pasta, the beef broth and the milk. Stir to combine and let cook until pasta is tender and the liquid is soaked up, usually between 7-10 minutes depending on pasta.
- Remove from heat and stir in the cheese, if using.
- Serve immediately with extra cheese and garnished with chopped parsley.